In the poem "First Lesson", the author Philip Booth utilizes figurative language and literary devices to convey the meaning of the poem that there will always be someone to help you and support you when you need it.With the lines 1-3, the poem opens with a distinct sense of security that a young child has when she is in the presence of her parent. She is shielded and is reassured by her parent: "Let your head be tipped back in the cup of my hand...I'll hold you." Essentially, she is being told that she needs not to trouble herself with any worries and should simply rely upon her parents for support. In this poem, the parent is presumably her father and she is taught by him to learn to swim in the "stream" so that eventually she can swim by herself in the "sea". Interestingly enough, this passage forms the basis of the extended metaphor that runs through the entirety of the poem. Metaphorically, the father's swim lesson can also be interpreted as introducing his child into the real world and preparing his daughter for survival within it. The poem continues with "Spread your arms wide, lie out on the stream and look high at the gulls. A dead man's-float is face down." The act of spreading your arms wide has the connotation carefreeness which suggest that he is trying to reassure and remove any fears or doubts of that his daughter (who is about to take her first steps out of the nest) may have. However, it may also be interpreted that the father is trying to instruct her to keep her mind and heart tolerant, and maintain big ambitions. Additionally, the "gulls" are symbolic of traits like adaptability and resourcefulness as well as opportunity. Therefore, this suggests of virtuous and lofty values the daughter is urged to work towards. Conversely, with the mention of the dead men, the father is demonstrating what becomes of a person who has no ambition nor positivity in life: he drowns. Furthermore, the father is also trying to tell his daughter to keep looking up in life and keep a positive attitude. In the next series of lines (lines 7-10), the father tell his daughter that she must soon make her journey out to the deep and vast ocean/real world. Then, he warns her of the storms and fatigue that may arise in her trek ahead the same way in which she would have to endure trials and adversity in the real world. However, despite this "long thrash", she will eventually reach her "island," and survive. Here, the "island" can either be interpreted as symbolic for a place of stability or represent the daughter's dreams and happiness in life. In the last 5 lines, the father says that whenever you are afraid of drowning in the wide ocean, just lie up and float. This is advise is applicable to real life due to the fact that like learning to flow with the ocean, the daughter needs learn to have trust in the people around her and allow herself to depend on them whenever it is necessary. In the very last line, the father gives his finals remarks of advice: "remember when fear cramps you heart...lie back, and the sea will hold you." The father offers the reliable advice that when she is met with challenges, she should "lie back", as in take things slowly and even submit to what comes next. Similarly to having trust in the people around her, she must also believe that sometimes things out of you control happen naturally to you and you must accept them due to the fact that they always have a reason as to why they occured in the first place. In addition, when he tells her "the sea will hold you", the "sea" is personified and given the identity of a calm and protective entity who guides. The sea also figuratively represent the sea of people around the child who are willing to impart their wisdom upon her and assist her throughout phases of her life. Summatively, the "First Lesson" is a poem provides an uplifting guide to surviving in the face of obstacles, and shares the impactful message that there will always be good and bad things in life. Therefore, it is important to not get caught up in every setback and learn to relax as you will always reach your aspirations eventually. Furthermore, you must also realize that things often happen for a reason and in the end, things will work out for the better so you just have to learn to maintain trust and allow nature to take its course.
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